NORMAN, Okla. — First, Trevor Knight acted like Johnny Manziel — just the on-field part. Relax.
Then Johnny Manziel did his thing dominating the Sooners in the Cotton Bowl a season ago.
Perhaps that was enough to convince the Oklahoma coaches.
Thursday, Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops announced Knight, once a scout-team phenom, will be the starter at quarterback for the Sooners when they open the season against Louisiana-Monroe on Aug. 31, and for the first time since, well, since Stoops took over in 1999, OU has the closest thing to Johnny Manziel at quarterback.
Gone is drop-back, three-year starter Landry Jones. Sam Bradford and his Heisman Trophy are a thing of the past, too. By choosing Knight, a redshirt freshman, Stoops isn’t just taking a chance on a freshman, he’s issuing a statement.
It’s dual-threat at Oklahoma now, no more of this one-choice offense.
Blake Bell, the junior who was good enough to get his own nickname — The Belldozer — as a backup to Jones to the past two seasons, clearly wasn’t what Stoops was seking. Yes, Bell was good for 24 touchdowns the past two seasons, a bowling ball between the hashes, his head down and a shoulder lowered. And yes, Bell will likely be in the same spot again this year, getting chances on short-yardage situations.
But after Knight showed coaches something, first on the scout team, then again impersonating Manziel in Cotton Bowl prep work, Stoops must have been convinced he needed more from his quarterback.
Especially after Manziel ran around and through the Sooners in the Cotton Bowl rout.
Kendal Thompson was gaining momentum heading into fall camp to be that guy, but Thompson fractured his foot the first day of practice. That injury seemingly made Bell the conventional-wisdom choice, but no one knew — and still don’t — what Knight was doing in practice, outside of the coaches.
According to The Tulsa World, Knight took snaps with the first team offense all week, establishing himself as the No. 1 guy. Now we get to see if he’s the same player who had success at San Antonio (Texas) High School throwing for 27 touchdowns and 2,092 yards and rushing for 943 yards with 15 touchdowns.
“Both Trevor and Blake (Bell) have competed hard and both will be ready to play against Louisiana-Monroe,” Stoops said. “Like every other position on our team, I expect them both to continue competing for the starting job.”
But the competition — at least in Stoops’ mind — is over. A quarterback who can do two things, is better than one. It’s not just choosing a freshman over a guy who had played in 20 games. It’s a change in mindset, and that trumps personnel.
Simple as that. So the freshman becomes the first real dual-threat at the position since Stoops took over in 1999. Count the Rhett Bomar year if you want, but that barely registers. Paul Thompson could do a bit of both, but remember, Thompson was a converted receiver. There was Jason White when his knees were good, but those days were short-lived.
The days of the dual-threat will not be. Not when Stoops chooses a freshman. Not when he could have gone with the easier choice and the established player.
But Stoops couldn’t. Not after Johnny Manziel showed him the future.